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Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper continued to outpace expectations on Monday — the official Martin Luther King Jr. holiday — grossing $17.8 million and putting its historic four-day debut at $107.2 million, instead of the projected $105.3 million.
American Sniper marks the biggest launch ever for a non-tentpole Hollywood title, as well as for a movie opening in January — much less an R-rated modern-day war film (the previous best for a drama was The Passion of the Christ with $83.8 million). And the film’s three-day haul of $89.5 million marks the No. 2 debut for an R-rated film after The Matrix: Reloaded ($91.8 million), not accounting for inflation.
The Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow production, starring Bradley Cooper as real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, benefited from a massive turnout in America’s heartland. It also recorded the biggest Oscar bump of all time after landing six nominations Feb. 15, including best picture and best actor.
At this rate, American Sniper should ultimately earn $250 million domestically and as much as $125 million overseas, where it is a far tougher sell. To date, it has earned $25.4 million.
“It is a cultural phenomenon and a perfect storm,” said Warners domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman. “If you would have told me we’d do these numbers, I would have replied that you were smoking something. This is the first ‘real’ superhero movie. It performed well in every market, from the smallest town to the biggest cities.”
Earning a coveted A+ CinemaScore in every category, Sniper galvanized moviegoers in both red and blue states. Heading into the weekend, the film was expected to open in the $45 million to $50 million range as it unfurled nationwide in 3,555 theaters after a limited run over Christmas in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas (Kyle was from Texas).
Sniper has grossed $110.7 million to date domestically, already eclipsing the $95.7 million grossed by Zero Dark Thirty in its entire run domestically and boosting its Oscar profile.
Jan. 20, 1:20 p.m. Final numbers updated.
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